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Is It Time to Reignite North American Manufacturing?

manufacturing

Is It Time to Reignite North American Manufacturing?

For the last four decades, manufacturing jobs have left North America. While this has led to lower prices for consumer goods, the supply chain issues laid bare over the last two years have demonstrated the unwritten costs inherent in this shift to foreign imports. Thousands of container ships are stranded in the Pacific Ocean, and many factories overseas are months (or even years) behind schedule. As a result, the cost of items has risen sharply for industries ranging from retail to automotive to construction, and caused brands to focus on how to reintroduce manufacturing to North America on a wider scale. 

The Plot of Every Springsteen Song  

Manufacturing jobs have been leaving North America since the 1970s, partly due to the perception that the industry has changed in ways North American workers wouldn’t like. But this is largely untrue — manufacturing jobs pay higher wages than comparable “blue collar” positions, and many come with benefits. Before the labor exodus, manufacturing jobs could support whole towns through a middle-class lifestyle. Showing the benefits of these rewarding industrial positions is North America’s best bet to reinvigorate the working middle class that fuels our consumer economy, while helping North American workers learn key technical skills for the new job market. But to do so, we’ll have to change those mistaken perceptions. 

Workers aren’t the only ones who would benefit from bringing manufacturing back. Smaller or midsize companies find themselves at a serious recruiting and production disadvantage, even before international shipping went awry. Unlike bigger companies who both have a larger stockpile of goods and talent and who can pay to expedite deliveries, smaller businesses are left adrift with their late arrivals. For these companies, investing in North American manufacturing can secure their supply chains and intellectual property while planting deeper roots in their communities. 

The Smart (Factory) Advantage  

Cutting-edge technology can give North American manufacturing the edge it needs to compete with inarguably cheaper services overseas. We are in the midst of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” wherein the manufacturing sector integrates ideas like artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Smart Factories. This increased use of machine learning and automation means the sorts of factories we can build in North America will be more productive than those overseas, while giving employees new opportunities to learn and grow. Those employees will be required more to maintain and program the machines than to assemble stock by hand, and the training they receive will also make for a more agile working class on the continent. 

Potholes and Speed Bumps  

Of course there will be challenges in reinvigorating North American manufacturing. Modern products, especially the electronics so central to our lives, require worker specialization. Even if a smart factory is automating every step, workers must know exactly what those steps are and how to ensure they’re being automated correctly. This advanced training is part of the overall cost of “scaling up” but in the end serve to illustrate the importance of manufacturing and the careers available for those who embrace the learning and development available in the industry. 

And speaking of supply, the manufacturing exodus has caused continental supply chains to atrophy, and these will need to be redeveloped to make delivery from North American factories to North American stores as fast as it is to those same stores from foreign factories. With today’s major trucker shortage, that rehabilitation is easier said than done.  

Embracing Challenges  

Many North American companies should seriously consider taking these hard but necessary steps to bring their manufacturing efforts back in-house. Not only would the investment pay off in greater independence and control over stock, but also reinvigorate industrial employment sectors in supply chains and manufacturing. While the current status quo is efficient when everything is going right, the past few years have proven how fast everything can go wrong. In those situations, the advantage lies with companies that can provide their own supply of goods and recruit and retain workers who have intimate knowledge of the products and processes.   

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Carl Schweihs is President and Chief Operating Officer of PeopleManagement, TrueBlue’s workforce management division specializing in onsite and contingent workforces. He leads three staffing businesses – Centerline Drivers, SIMOS Solutions and Staff Management | SMX, combining innovative, technology-based solutions with workforce strategy to help bridge talent gaps and prepare tomorrow’s supply chain talent for the future.   

warehouse management

Common warehouse management problems and their solutions

Running a warehouse is a job that requires a lot of organization and managing. Whether you like it or not, problems sometimes happen. That’s a reality you need to get used to if you want to be in this business. Luckily, there is something that you can do about those issues. Being proactive and learning about the common warehouse management problems and their solutions is the best strategy.

Doing redundant tasks

Each item in a warehouse has a number of tasks done on them. These tasks, or operations, create a workflow that includes everything that happens to that particular item from the moment it enters the warehouse to the moment it leaves. The problem occurs if the workflow is not organized correctly. If two or more people do the same task, you get a redundancy that only wastes time and company resources. This type of issue is more experienced in larger warehouses simply because of the amount of work.

A successful logistics business model demands precision and efficiency. With that in mind, go over specific operations and make sure to fix the problem of redundancy. Warehouse execution systems (WES) are the best solution because they allow you to automate various processes. This will remove the redundancy problem for good.

Unorganized inventory management

If you start finding products at wrong locations, discovering that you don’t have enough stock to fulfill orders, or finding out that you do have enough stock after you have already denied the order, you are having issues with inventory management. Your inventory records are not accurate, causing a lot of problems in your business.

Almost 50% of small businesses use manual tracking, or they don’t track inventory at all. That is unacceptable. One possible solution is to look into Supply Chain 4.0 technologies. Advanced technology can solve your issues with stock shortages, delays caused by errors, and many other issues you are experiencing.

Wrong warehouse layout

One of the most common problems warehouse owners face is the lack of space in their warehouses. This is not because the warehouses are small, but only due to the poor use of space. Warehouse layout issues have existed for a long time now, and they are a huge pain point in the industry.

The idea is to find the optimal layout that will make use of vertical space while leaving enough room for employees to move around. However, this also creates issues with accessibility to the products. If the boxes with items are on high shelves, it will not always be easy to reach them.

Automation equipment and technology are the answer. It will reduce the labor costs and at the same time help with categorizing the inventory and improving accessibility. Some warehouse management systems offer 3D models that show the best warehouse layout with all the dimensions.

If, for some reason, you still don’t want to upgrade the technology in your warehouse, you can do some rearranging manually. Simply place the items that sell the most on the lower shelves, and make them easily accessible.

Failing to get ready for seasonal demands

Demand planning is a critical process in warehousing. Demand depends on many factors, like customers, the economy, or the season. When it comes to seasonal demands, it is important to understand that some products are not sold during the entire year. A good example would be winter clothes.

As a warehouse manager, you need to be ready for reorganization based on the season. The best way to prepare for this is to stay in touch with the manufacturers, transporters, retailers, and distributors in the business. They will feed you the information about the current demands, which will tremendously help with warehouse organization.

Furthermore, you should also use demand forecasting. This technique relies on market analysis to tell you what products will be sold the most in the upcoming season.

Order management issues

One of the areas that report the most problems and errors is order management. It is also one of the most important operations. It keeps track of all the operations and processes from the moment an order is received.

Even the slightest mistake in the order management process will cause delays with the shipment. If you are thinking about automating your business and purchasing warehouse software, this is where you should start. Order fulfillment accuracy will help with increasing the profit of the company and improve overall customer satisfaction.

How labor costs affect your business

Many warehouse owners think that warehouse automation costs a lot of money. The technology is expensive, and hiring more labor is a better option. This, however, is not correct. While all warehouses need employees, high labor costs seriously affect how business is conducted. Although automation does cost money, it helps with saving money as well. The human errors are reduced, and the overall time completion for various processes is improved. All warehouses need a healthy balance between automation technology and employees.

Common warehouse management problems and their solutions – explained!

Now that we have discussed the most common warehouse management problems and their solutions, we can all conclude that the answer lies in warehouse automation. The advancement of technology is the key to solving organizational problems and helping your business grow.

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Chuck Ladel is the content creator and blogger for Peasley Transfer & Storage. The focus of his articles is on business growth and solving operational issues within the logistics industry.

third party sellers

Protecting Your Brand from Third-Party Sellers and Retail Arbitrage

From its humble origins as an online bookseller, Amazon has already ridden the rise of e-commerce. According to new research, though, it’s on track to overtake Walmart as the largest retailer in the US by 2025. By then, Amazon will also account for nearly two-thirds of the estimated $1 trillion in online consumer goods sales.

For consumers, it makes sense: with one-click ordering, access to products from over 8 million sellers, fast shipping, and (often) the best price, buying on Amazon is an easy choice.

It’s not as easy for sellers, though. Yes, Amazon opens the door to millions of additional buyers, but it controls the marketplace and introduces new competitive pressure. It’s important to protect your brand on Amazon, especially from third-party sellers that can undercut your sales or damage your brand loyalty. There’s more, though: retail arbitrage is an ecommerce business model that’s growing rapidly, and it’s important to understand it and protect your brand against it. Put simply, retail arbitrage is when people buy retail products (online or in person) and resell them on Amazon and other online marketplaces for a higher profit. It’s happening all the time, to brands that are sold regularly on Amazon as well as those that are restricted—which means that they’re not to be sold on Amazon.

Because third-party sellers and retail arbitrage are widespread, you must have visibility into your product and brand portfolio. This is where the performance analytics Line Item can be essential for monitoring your e-analytics to protect your portfolio. Let’s look at why.

Amazon third-party sellers
Third-party sellers are growth drivers within a rapidly growing market. In fact, according to research from Planet Retail RNG, third-party sellers on Amazon already account for more than half of all sales—and by 2022 will account for as much as $130 billion of total gross merchandise value on the platform. This means they are a force you can’t ignore—and more sellers open accounts every day.

Before looking further at the risks, let’s define terms. First-party sellers are brand manufacturers that sell their inventory directly to Amazon. Amazon then sells to customers. Second-party sellers are Amazon suppliers that are not the product’s manufacturer; Amazon often relies on second-party sellers to buffer inventory. Third-party sellers strategically use Amazon as a marketplace for direct-to-consumer sales.

Amazon buyers may be indifferent about purchasing from these different types of sellers. But brand manufacturers are not. Think of it this way: every third-party sale of your products is a sale you lost out on. And these sales are only projected to grow. Why? It’s become very easy to resell on Amazon. All you need is an Amazon Seller account and products to sell. To make it even easier to net a profit, there are price-tracking apps that give resellers real-time info simply by scanning or entering product codes.

Third-party seller risks to your brand
Third-party sellers can cost your brand, so monitoring and acting on any activity is critical. The risks include:

-Unauthorized sales

-Price undercuts

-Losing the buy box

-Lower search results, ranks, and conversions

-Losing control of your curated detail page because of Amazon Fulfillment Center out-of-stocks

-Quality problems with selling condition

-Erosion of brand equity and consumer loyalty

Restricted brands
Amazon tries to control counterfeiting through restricting certain brands or even certain products on Amazon. But third-party sellers have found many ways around this, so even if your brand or product is restricted on Amazon, that doesn’t mean it isn’t being sold.

What brands can do about third-party activity
CPG and e-commerce brands must understand the scope of any third-party sales on Amazon and other platforms. To tightly control the supply chain, you must evaluate:

-How many resellers will your brand authorize, who are they, and on what retail sites are they selling

-Whether authorized resellers are upholding your brand, including product quality, customer service, and pricing

-If customer reviews are trending negatively, including unaddressed customer service needs that may ultimately damage consumer confidence—and your brand.

Line Item can help by identifying third-party activity as well as verifying pricing, including list price, selling price, and price undercutting. Let’s look at how Line Item can help when it comes to third-party activity on Amazon.

Line Item can help you identify new, unauthorized third-party activity on Amazon.

Line Item can track e-analytics related to item pricing, helping you understand if your products are under- or overpriced, or when a third-party seller undercuts your price.

Line Item captures e-analytics including e-tailer, review score and count, selling price and more, so you can gain visibility via a single platform into every aspect of your online sales.

Line Item can identify if your reviews are letting you down, giving you insight that can help you address brand loyalty and consumer confidence for online sales.

Line Item can tell you if out-of-stocks are hurting your revenue, helping you track inventory to retain greater control over your sales, curated detail page, and more.

With Amazon on track to take over as king of global retail, now is the time to put the right safeguards for your brand in place. It’s not just about Amazon sales; with Amazon a major driver of online sales beyond the platform, it’s about ensuring your brand viability and sales across all online channels. This is where Line Item can be a game-changer for your Amazon and online sales, helping you protect your brand from third-party seller risks and giving you e-analytics insight to grow your loyalty alongside your sales.

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Ironbridge Software was founded in 1989 by Mike Dickenson. Mike’s unparalleled expertise and passion for technology led him to create the first-ever analytical solution for the Consumer Packaged Goods Industry